Dr Luke Burns

Dr Luke Burns


I am an Associate Professor in Quantitative Human Geography in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds.  I joined the University's academic staff in 2013 having previously completed my PhD in Geodemographics (2013), Masters in Geographical Information Systems (2009) and Bachelors degree in Geography (2008) at the University of Leeds.

Having worked in both industry and academia, I have developed expertise in several areas of quantitative spatial analysis, in particular within the fields of health and business planning.  Most of my work focuses on the advanced application of geographical information systems (GIS) to socioeconomic problems and the development of geodemographic classification systems and composite indicators to measure social phenomena.  I lead an innovative online Masters programme in GIS and teach across a broad selection of analytical courses comprising undergraduate, taught postgraduate, open distance learning and continuing professional development.  I also lead the BA Geography with Quantitative Methods undergraduate programme. 

I am a member of the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and have undertaken considerable recent work on the importance of embedding quantitative and data skills into university curricula.

I am fortunate to have been recognised by the Association for Geographic Information and Times Higher Education for contributions to student education.


  • Programme Manager: MSc Geographical Information Science (distance learning), launched September 2019
  • Programme Manager: BA Geography with Quantitative Methods, launched September 2021

Research interests

My research interests principally concern the development of geodemographic classification systems and composite indicators to profile small areas and individuals based on a range of demographic and lifestyle data.  My research is highly applied and has seen uses in a range of application areas, in particular within the fields of health, education and business planning.  I am currently working in collaboration with Age UK and related organisations to explore the impact of loneliness.  This work seeks to define and develop a measure of loneliness at the small-area level, determine its links to mental/physical health and understand the pressures that this places on core services such as national health and social care.

I have strong interests in the application of geographical information science for strategic decision-making, particularly linked to health, education and business, and have combined industrial employment and academic research in these areas.

I have a long-standing interest in the pedagogical approaches to teaching quantitative skills in university education.

Example outputs of my work are included towards the bottom of this page.

Current research project: Prefabs sprouting – Modern Methods of Construction and the English housing crisis


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Human Geography, University of Leeds
  • MSc Geographical Information Systems, University of Leeds
  • BA Geography, University of Leeds

Professional memberships

  • Society for Location Analysis (Advisory Board)
  • Higher Education Academy (Fellow)
  • Association for Learning Technology (Associate Member)
  • Royal Geographical Society (Fellow)
  • Royal Geographical Society (Professional Advisory Group)

Student education

I am heavily involved in student education within the School of Geography and more widely across the University.  I currently undertake the following duties:

School of Geography:

  • Programme Manager for MSc in Geographical Information Science (taught online by distance learning), launched in September 2019.
  • Programme Manager for BA in Geography and Quantitative Methods, launched in September 2021.
  • Teach on a wide selection of modules at undergraduate and taught postgraduate level, principally in quantitative geography, GIS and spatial analysis.
  • Supervise a range of student projects including undergraduate dissertations, taught postgraduate dissertations and research postgraduate projects.
  • Research Postgraduate Committee.


  • University Q-Step Executive Committee.
  • Deliver short courses / training through the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics / Consumer Data Research Centre aimed at industry and academia.
  • Previously seconded to the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (in 2017) to complete a project auditing university curricula and ensuring taught quantitative and data skills match industry demands.
  • Previously seconded to the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) as Deputy Director of LIDA and Director of Education and Training, leading on the institute's student education portfolio.

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute for Spatial Data Science
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>